The winners in the online marketing space have always been the fast movers. Quick and agile people who see an opportunity and have the motivation and resources to act rapidly. But as we’re seeing in the mobile marketplace right now, new opportunities are being fenced in by the biggest companies who control the platforms. In the evolving world of online advertising, the big beasts are making their presence felt.

Consider three data points:

  1. Apple has banned ad networks owned by device manufacturers from serving ads through iPhone and iPad applications. This means that Google’s new prize, AdMob,  has been effectively hamstrung which, on the one hand, opens up market share for independent mobile ad networks, but on the other hand means that those networks are going to be severely limited in their exit strategies. Suddenly, the chances of being acquired by HP or Nokia have been reduced significantly for those companies. In a stroke, Apple has carved out a chunk of the Gold Country for itself and made it harder for everyone else into the bargain. 
  2. InMobi, the Indian mobile ad network, launched in the U.S. last week. This is a network that already serves an estimated 17 billion monthly impressions worldwide and has a self-serve ad platform and full-bore sales team already in place.  They’re thought to be second only to AdMob in terms of global impressions, but given AdMob’s Apple-related traffic threatened, InMobi now sees an opportunity to move fast and eat up market share in the U.S. For all those iPhone app developers that now have to find an alternative network to replace AdMob, InMobi is going to be an attractive alternative. And for Android developers, InMobi has a shiny new Android SDK. InMobi is moving fast. 
  3. In May Twitter banned third-party networks from injecting paid ads into any Twitter stream. This came after one of their major investors suggested that it would be unwise for companies in the Twitter ecosystem to expect that the Twitter API would always be open to them.

Each of these examples illustrates that the online advertising ecosystem is maturing. We’re moving to a world where a few big companies control browsers, desktop operating systems, mobile platforms and their own ad networks. They’re building their own environments in order to take more and more control. And with every step, they will take more share of the available ad revenue.

Even new niches are being occupied by the dinosaurs. Independent ad networks and their advertisers are the mammals, smaller and more agile. But as the online advertising landscape heats up, will agility be enough to win? Which of us will prove to be fast enough to thrive?